Midafternoon is a slow time, so I take a history class at UCLA, and I’m rarely disturbed. But my phone buzzed.
“This is International Assistance about the patient you saw today. She has begun to vomit and wants another visit. We have authorized it.”
Two hours earlier I had given ibuprofen to a woman with back pain. If the medicine upset her stomach, this would pass. I planned to deliver reassurance, but her husband came on the line and begged for a visit, so I agreed.
Not only did I have to leave class, but the patient was in Hollywood, a tedious eight mile drive through city streets with the rush hour beginning. After twenty minute of stop-and-go, a sense of unease grew. Ibuprofen shouldn’t cause such a violent reaction. Then I realized that the Hollywood patient was not from International Assistance but World Assistance.
International Assistance had called the previous night at 1 a.m. and sent me to the Airport Hilton for a guest suffering a migraine. I’d given an injection and left strong pain pills for later. I checked caller ID on my cell phone and, sure enough, I’d jumped to the wrong conclusion.
The Hilton was in the opposite direction. It took another twenty minutes to reach the freeway and join the rush hour creep.